Though Thomas Dekker makes a big impression as Lance Loud in HBO’s CINEMA VERITE movie based on the 1970s PBS documentary series AN AMERICAN FAMILY, this certainly won’t be the first, and last time this charismatic young actor will be in the spotlight. Starting from the age of six, Dekker’s grew from parts in SEINFELD and TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL to cartoon voices for LAND BEFORE TIME and AMERICAN TAIL spin-offs, then turned in notable teen performances in BOSTON PUBLIC, CSI and HOUSE M.D.
Dekker then gained a true cult following on the shows HEROES and TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES before entering film and TV adulthood with magnetism to burn in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, MY SISTER’S KEEPER and KABOOM. Usually playing young men desperate to find themselves in one way or another (even if it’s discovering they were fated to save the Earth), Dekker has made it a point to remain just as busy as a recording artist, and an aspiring writer-director, with one movie about a fame-seeking WHORE-dom of teen Hollywood already. Now the CW coven of the pilot series SECRET CIRCLE awaits Dekker’s brooding magic.
In Part 2 of our exclusive interview, Dekker talks about growing up in Hollywood, HEROES and what SECRET CIRCLE is all about.
ASSIGNMENT X: You’ve been [an actor] since Christopher Reeve tried to blow you up VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED.
THOMAS DEKKER: But I survived! I made it out of the schoolhouse alive. Yeah, I started when I was five. So this has been a long haul.
AX: What’s the trick to growing up on screen and not becoming Lindsey Lohan?
DEKKER: I think it’s incredibly hard. I’ve had a very lucky past of when I was in the public eye, and when I haven’t been. I’ve never stopped working, but certainly there were periods where I had to discover myself, or maybe behaved badly in the process. They were fortunately during times in my life when no one was really watching. Lindsay Lohan is someone who seriously has a problem that’s beyond celebrity gossip. Now, it just hurts me when I find there’s another thing she’s in trouble for.
I think in general about the rest of the kid actors who’ve gone astray while growing up. It’s very, very hard to have that kind of pressure of the public eye on you when you’re probably trying to discover yourself. Also, you have so much more at your fingertips in this industry, literally and figuratively. I guess for me, my biggest addiction has been working. It’s been applying myself as much as possible as an actor, a writer and a director. I’ve also done three albums as a musician. So in the end, it’s really about staying focused on what it is that you’re doing, and having awesome parenting.
AX: I first noticed you on HEROES. You were fortunate enough to get out before the entire series jumped the shark.
DEKKER: That’s what everybody says to me now. Everybody originally told me I was crazy to leave at the time. Now it’s a reversal.
AX: Where do you think the show went wrong?
DEKKER: To be honest, I’ve never seen an episode of HEROES. When I was on it, I was just a guest star in four episodes. So I didn’t realize my character was getting noticed at all, or realized how big the show was. I just left because I got another show TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. The chance to play a cult figure like John Connor was very exciting, so I just left to go do that. Then I heard that HEROES shifted gears after the first season.
AX: While I couldn’t wait for someone to put HEROES out of its misery by the end, I really enjoyed TERMINATOR all the way through. The series actually got better as it went along. I was sorry to see it end.
DEKKER: It’s a tricky thing. It sometimes still upsets me that TERMINATOR ended after two seasons, because I really loved playing the role. I loved the people I worked with. Yet I’ve gotten to work since with Gregg Araki on KABOOM and to do CINEMA VERITE and a bunch of other films I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do if TERMINATOR continued. Everything happens for a reason I guess.
AX: Where do you think the show would have gone if it had continued to a third season?
DEKKER: Well, the writers were very secretive, so we weren’t ever really told much beyond a couple episodes. I think TERMINATOR would have followed John’s story into the future, then go back and forth between the future and the present where Sarah still was. All of it would have been about how I rise to become the John Connor of the Terminator saga as opposed to being just a random guy. It would have been really interesting, and I’m really proud of that series for being my first show where I got to play a lead, other than the Disney HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS show I did from age nine to 12.
AX: Gregg’s KABOOM was a real return to the kind of sexually sassy movies that started his career. Is shooting a fun and sexy movie as fun and sexy as it looks?
DEKKER: It’s very fun. I don’t know about sexy. It’s very pragmatic because Gregg is so specific with his shots. He storyboards the entire script with little drawings next to every line. I’m sure it could be very sexy if he was shooting it very loose and handheld, with that sort of feeling like you were really in it, which makes it a little more comfortable I guess. But I just had a great time on that film. That entire cast was really talented, and full of smart young people. I knew it would be because it’s Gregg’s, but the fact that we got a standing ovation at Cannes and Sundance was terrific. KABOOM is Gregg’s biggest financial success, even if were shot in what was basically an abandoned warehouse with a tiny little set, no craft service and no money. We were all just doing it for the love of it. Gregg’s kind of a magician in making a film look much bigger than what it really was in person. It’s just wild that it’s doing everything it’s done.
AX: Can you tell me about your new CW TV series SECRET CIRCLE?
DEKKER: It’s based on the same books by the author of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and it’s Kevin Williamson’s new baby. I’ve been a very big fan of Kevin’s for a long time. SCREAM was really my pre-teen obsession. I met with Kevin and I guess he enjoyed what I’d been doing these last few years. He cast me in the role of Adam Conant. He’s a sort of an all American normal guy who becomes involved with a convent of witches.
AX: What’s also cool is you also keep doing these little genre pictures like LAID TO REST and ALL ABOUT EVIL on top of your bigger projects like NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and MY SISTER’S KEEPER.
DEKKER: I told my publicist that it’s got to be a nightmare to try and work with me, because my whole m.o. since I basically became an adult has been to try to do as big, and different a variety of work as possible- with one thing right after the other. I’ve been very fortunate to get that opportunity. I have another film that’s opening the Tribeca Film Festival that I’m really proud of called ANGELS CREST I made it a week after KABOOM, and it’s probably one of my absolute favorite things I’ve done, I went from playing this bisexual college student to a hunter in Montana with a two year old son and an alcoholic ex-wife. So I’m definitely following my path of specific desire as an actor to now go from that to Lance and a new CW show.
AX: Yet you’re one of the youngest-looking actors who’s this busy. That makes you just right for the CW.
DEKKER: I just turned 23. It does feel a bit weird to be doing scenes in a high school this week, but there are far older actors playing younger roles than me so I’m not feeling too guilty yet.
AX: You’ll be making your second film as a writer and director soon as well.
DEKKER: Though I made WHORE with my own finances, it’s gotten me enough belief and support to do a fully budgeted movie with actual money that’s not my own. The movie’s called THE WALK OF FAME, which will have Shiloh Fernandez is in it. I’ve been friends with him for years and years, and I’m very excited about working with him. WALK will also have a pretty big ensemble of talented young people that I’m very excited about.
AX: Lance Loud certainly revealed how much talent he had beyond being on AN AMERICAN FAMILY. He did so much with his life that you could make a whole other film about him.
DEKKER: Yeah, I’d love to see a film all about Lance. His life after the series ended was a fascinating road. As I told you, I hadn’t known about Lance prior to the project. Now it’s pretty much that happens with everywhere I go and anyone I meet, because the generation above me seems to have know Lance personally. I mean it’s just crazy. People who are already friends of mine like John Waters and Mink Stole were close to him, as well as the owners of Serendipity in New York. Greg Gorman, the photographer I just did a shoot with for Venice, knew Lance very well too. So all these people that I knew or run into had a connection with Lance, which really speaks as to how much of a presence he was.
AX: If you got to meet Lance what would you say?
DEKKER: “Can I buy you a drink?” I guess that’s what I would say. I would like to get a good old bottle of whiskey and talk with Lance for a good long time. And I’d probably be very entertained. Lance definitely gave me one of the most fascinating dream roles I could ever play. So I owe a lot to him.
Special thanks to Peter Hackman for his interview transcription
CLICK HERE for PART 2 of AX’s Exclusive Interview with THOMAS DEKKER